Leaf could serve Texas time in Montana prison

LUBBOCK, Texas — The Texas prosecutor who brokered a 10-year probationary sentence for former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf said Tuesday he is working on a plea deal that would allow the Montana native to serve his sentence in his home state.

Randall County District Attorney James Farren said he’ll seek a seven-year sentence against Leaf for violating terms of his probation when he was arrested for drug possession in Montana last year. A Texas judge would have to approve the deal.

“He would never have to come back here, which would be fine with me,” Farren said, adding that the deal would save the state money for travel to and from Montana and the cost to house Leaf in a Texas prison.

Leaf, a Heisman Trophy finalist at Washington State, spent four seasons in the NFL after being chosen No. 2 in the 1998 draft — behind Peyton Manning — by the San Diego Chargers. He retired after four dismal seasons, finishing his career with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

In late 2008, Leaf resigned from West Texas A&M in Canyon after coaching quarterbacks for three seasons. He later said he was introduced to heavy-duty painkillers following surgeries on his shoulders, knees and wrists, and he realized he was addicted in March 2008. He was accused of presenting an incomplete medical history to physicians in 2008 in his quest to get the painkiller Hydrocodone, and of forcing his way into an apartment to steal the drug that had been prescribed to an injured football player.

Leaf got probation after pleading guilty to eight felony drug charges in 2010. But after moving back to his home state, he is now in a Montana prison after being kicked out of a drug treatment program. He pleaded guilty last May to burglary and drug possession.

Farren said the Texas sentence and one Leaf is serving in Montana would run concurrently.

“It may be a deal breaker if it’s more than Montana’s” sentence, Farren said. “That’s our position at this point. I’m not going to agree to less than seven.”

Leaf got five years in Montana.

Leaf’s defense attorney in Texas, Bill Kelly, said there are procedural hoops still to be negotiated and that he and Farren hadn’t yet discussed specifics. He did agree that Leaf would be better served handling the case from afar.

“There’s no need to bring him back here and reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Leaf was charged last spring with breaking into two houses and stealing prescription painkillers near his hometown of Great Falls, Mont. After pleading guilty, his five-year sentence called for spending nine months in a locked drug treatment facility as an alternative to prison.

Leaf will remain in the state prison until at least June 30, when he becomes eligible for parole, a Montana prison official said. That does not mean he will be released, but he will receive a hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Parole.

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